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Judge Paschal A. English Jr. was savvy and likable enough to become one of the final four contestants on the CBS reality show “Survivor: Marquesas.” Now that “Pappy,” as he was known on the show, is back on the Fayette County, Ga., bench, a question has come up as to whether judicial ethics canons prevent him from cashing in on his newfound celebrity status. English has signed an endorsement deal with Atlanta Gas Light Co. to promote — on television, radio, newspapers and the sides of MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) buses — the benefits of barbecuing with natural gas. The ads say “Pappy Doesn’t Do Propane” and show English in a tropical setting wearing a floppy cap, holding a sign that says “Propane” with a circle and a slash through the middle of the word. Nowhere do the ads mention that Pappy is a judge, and officials at Atlanta Gas Light and the ad agency that created the campaign say their interest in English was his celebrity, not his judicial position. But two legal ethics professors suggest English’s endorsement may run afoul of judicial canons. A third expert disagreed, saying the ads likely pass ethical tests. English rejected criticism, noting he cleared his appearance on “Survivor” with his chief judge and two state appellate court jurists whom he declined to name. As for the ads, English said, “I wasn’t asked to do that as a result of being a judge,” but as a former “Survivor.” To be sure, Atlanta Gas Light is not the only company to capitalize on English’s celebrity. The Daily Report purchased a CBS photograph of English in the Marquesas Islands to use on the front page of its Daily Report Dozen special edition last month. The theme of the edition was how Georgia law firms survived the year during a recession. The Daily Report did not pay Judge English. ‘APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY’ L. Ray Patterson, who teaches legal ethics at the University of Georgia School of Law, said he’s reasonably confident that judicial codes of conduct don’t specifically address judges making commercial endorsements. “I don’t think there’s a rule precluding such conduct for the simple reason that nobody thought a judge would do that,” Patterson said, adding that the idea is highly inappropriate. The judiciary, he said, should be known for its independence of judgment. Patterson pointed to Canon 2 of the American Bar Association’s Code of Judicial Conduct, which provides that judges should avoid the appearance of impropriety, should promote the public’s confidence in their office, and should not lend the prestige of their office to advance private interests. “The fact that a private citizen or private company pays the judge … raises at a minimum the appearance of impropriety,” Patterson added. The Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct is nearly identical to the ABA’s code, forbidding judges from using the prestige of their offices to promote private interests. Another section of the Georgia code prohibits judges from soliciting funds “for any educational, religious, charitable, fraternal, or civic organization.” JUDGE AS CONTESTANT Stephen Gillers, a legal ethicist from New York University School of Law, called English’s endorsement “inadvisable.” “The fact that he’s not identified as a judge won’t matter,” Gillers said, noting that many people know Pappy is a judge — news stories and promotions about “Survivor” said he is a judge. Pointing out that many judges write and promote books, Gillers said there was nothing wrong with English appearing on the television show. But he added, “You cross the line when you go beyond being a contestant [to] doing a commercial.” English responded to Gillers’ argument by asking, “The fact that someone knows me as a judge — does that preclude me from doing anything?” Later he said, “I’ve got a private life, too.” English said the professors — whom he described as hypothesizing “in their ivory towers” — were entitled to their opinions. But, he said, “It doesn’t matter to me what they think.” JUDGES’ FREE SPEECH One ivory tower-type — Gary A. Hengstler of the National Judicial College’s National Center for Courts and the Media in Reno, Nev. — said English’s ads likely would survive ethical scrutiny. Hengstler noted that the recent U.S. Supreme Court speech decision striking down judicial campaign speech restrictions suggests that “as a general principle it tends to uphold an individual [judge's] right of free speech.” Given that the ads make no mention of the judge’s profession, Hengstler added, “I’m not so sure his First Amendment rights wouldn’t trump” actions to make him stop. Hengstler added that a judicial ethics board could easily find a violation if a judge appears in an ad that says, “Judge So-and-so endorses X.” But in this case, he added, “I’m not so certain they could make an ethics violation stick.” The Atlanta Gas Light campaign plans include three appearances by Judge English at local Publix supermarkets, promotions that also feature Ducane natural-gas grills. English said along with numerous speaking requests — from charities, the ABA and judges’ groups in Utah and Kansas — he has made an appearance promoting Snickers candy bars in Chicago. An Atlanta Gas Light spokesman said the company would not disclose how much it was paying English. If Atlanta Gas Light were a litigant in his courtroom, said the judge, he would follow his custom with any conflict — alert both sides and offer to recuse himself. Clarke Superior Court Judge Steve C. Jones, chairman of Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, would not discuss whether the commission would look into English’s endorsement deals. The commission only discusses cases when a decision has been made whether to launch a formal hearing. If judicial ethics authorities were to get involved, Gillers said he would expect just that they tell English to stop doing the ads. “It’s not a grievous error,” he added. Mark J. Pettit, president and chief executive officer of Creaxion, the advertising agency that created the campaign, said any criticism of English is “ridiculous.” “We didn’t hire Judge Judy. We didn’t hire Judge Brown. We hired Paschal English,” he said, pointing out that English is a celebrity, a Georgia native and a person who has used natural gas in his house for 30 years. English’s occupation, he added, “had no bearing on our decision.” Senior reporter Trisha Renaud contributed to this report.

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